Column | Resolutions and blessings following the end of the Steelers 2022 season


AP Photo/Matt Freed

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Kenny Pickett during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

By Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

The end of the Steelers’ 2022 season was bittersweet — bitter because they narrowly missed the playoffs with the New York Jets losing to the Miami Dolphins, but sweet because they beat the Browns at home and relegated them to their rightful place at the bottom of the AFC North.

Despite the unceremonious end to the season, the Steelers exceeded expectations by staying competitive during a rebuilding year. 

Steelers fans are among the most spoiled in the National Football League, a testament to the organization’s consistency. While teams like the Browns and the Lions wallow in the muck at the bottom of the NFL power rankings year after year, the Steelers find ways to remain competitive.

The new year provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate your life — and your favorite sports team. Here are some of the Steelers’ blessings and resolutions for 2023.

Resolution: Fire Matt Canada

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada should live up to his name and get a job in the Canadian Football League. Luckily for him, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking for an experienced coach to helm their offense. 

Steelers fans consistently turn Canada into a convenient scapegoat following any loss. When the offense struggles, it’s because of Canada. When the offense succeeds, it’s in spite of Canada. 

The vehemence isn’t entirely without justification. One can only watch so many jet sweeps or third-and-long running plays before inevitably getting frustrated with the playcalling. In Canada’s defense, he spent his first year as coordinator with an aging Ben Roethlisberger and his second year with a quarterback controversy. Still, a good coordinator finds ways to score with the tools at his disposal, and Canada has consistently failed to adjust to his offense’s strengths.

Regardless of fan groveling, Canada will likely return for the 2023 season. The organization held on to its previous offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner for three seasons, despite offensive struggles during his tenure.

The Steelers will give Canada one more season to right the ship, but it’s doubtful that the team contends for a championship with him as OC.

Blessing: An answer at Quarterback

The quarterback position was the biggest question mark for the Steelers heading into the 2022 NFL draft. The team benefited from 18 years of consistency with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Despite this preseason uncertainty, Steelers fans can rest assured that they won’t have to see Mason Rudolph start in the near future.

Despite some early rookie mistakes, Kenny Pickett showed tremendous growth in the latter half of the season. Pickett did a better job of protecting the ball and avoiding turnovers after the bye week, only throwing one interception in his last seven starts. He finished the season with 2,641 all-purpose yards, 10 total touchdowns and nine interceptions. 

Pickett showed exceptional poise in the two-minute drill, leading impressive game-winning drives against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. For now, he’s done more than enough to hold on to the starting position and justify his draft position.

Resolution: Build off of the established core

The Steelers head into 2023 with a solid foundation to build upon. The offense has a promising young quarterback with the tandem of Harris and Warren at running back and Freiermuth at tight end. Despite trading Chase Claypool to the Bears midseason, the team still has depth at the wide receiver position.

The Steelers maintained their reputation for consistently drafting and developing receivers — exemplified by wide receiver George Pickens’s exceptional rookie season. Pickens finished the year with 52 catches for 801 yards and five total touchdowns.

The Steelers established a well-rounded defense in recent years, cemented by their formidable front four. Third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith established himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the league, leading the team with 14.5 sacks. The secondary came into its own later in the season, finishing the season with a league-high 20 interceptions.

Heading into the draft, the Steelers should focus on the offensive line and linebacker positions. 

Blessing: Mike Tomlin retains his winning streak

The fact that the Steelers remained in the playoff picture until week 18 is a testament to Tomlin’s coaching ability. With Sunday’s win against the Browns, Mike Tomlin retained his 16 year streak of going .500 or above.

Count your blessings, Steelers fans. You won’t find a more reliable head coach whose last name isn’t Belichick.